Fine-Tuning the Future Workforce

Worldwide ERC® President & CEO Peggy Smith, SCRP, SGMS-T, was joined by a panel of HR and Global Mobility professionals at this year’s Global Workforce Symposium to discuss hot topics and the future of the HR and mobility industry.

At the 2019 Global Workforce Symposium, Worldwide ERC® President & CEO Peggy Smith, SCRP, SGMS-T moderated a panel of distinguished HR and global mobility leaders in a session titled “Fine-Tuning the Future Workforce.” This in-depth conversation and audience Q&A featured CEO of IQTalent Partners David Windley, Global HR Leader of IBM Corporation Horst Gallo, and Global Staffing Leader of Technology Google, Patrick Sullivan. The conversation focused on such significant topics as the changing nature of workforce models, talent shortages and management strategies, and the future of the HR profession and global mobility.

The conversation focused on such significant topics as the changing nature of workforce models, talent shortages and management strategies, and the future of the HR profession and global mobility.

The discussion began with talent challenges and how to grapple with growing trends like the “blended workforce model,” or one that brings together talent through a variety of classifications, such as full-time, part-time, temporary or freelance. For Sullivan, it is important to work with internal clients and technical leaders and to think about talent from a global perspective. Additionally, bringing people and analytics together, especially by engaging in the research space, can help a company focus on specific areas and demographics of talent and track them over time. At IBM, while employment models still are largely traditional, Gallo is seeing a shift toward blended workforce models to meet growing demands for new skills.

Regardless of how a company chooses to structure its talent management, it is important to understand the need for new ways of thinking, according to Windley. Establishing an on-demand workforce, mapping talent and moving operations to where high concentrations of needed skills are located,  instead of the other way around, or launching a secondary development center are some examples of the approaches companies are now considering. Embracing a blended workforce model may take a bit of experimentation and collaboration to get going, but ongoing assessment and measurement is crucial, observed Windley.

Gallo commented that current educational systems are not producing enough talent with needed skills, and that a greater focus on both hard and soft skills is imperative to meet the evolving demands of a highly skilled workforce. Regarding mobility as a talent strategy, Windley noted its importance in developing executives with the global experience and mindset necessary to successfully lead global organizations or teams.

The panelists agreed that the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics in HR is still in the early stages of implementation.  Panelists noted that it will be important to understand ethics in the use of AI, given the risk that it may contain embedded biases or labels that can lead to discrimination. They emphasized the importance of continually monitoring fairness and inclusion as AI develops, reinforcing the need for developing soft skills within the human talent working alongside the machines. Even with this caveat, Gallo noted that AI and analytics are making the HR process easier through predictive analytics and automating tasks so HR professionals can focus on judgment and problem solving.

Smith asked the panelists to predict what HR may look like in five years. Windley pointed out that as AI continues to make some jobs obsolete, HR is going to grow in importance as the workforce becomes talent-based as opposed to job-based. Sullivan observed that the evolution of strategic thinking capabilities, lifelong education, and leveraging technology are crucial to the future of HR. Similarly, Gallo cited the need for cultivating lifelong curiosity to manage the constant change within the industry.

The evolution of strategic thinking capabilities, lifelong education, and leveraging technology are crucial to the future of HR.

Recognizing the voice of a company’s employees will continue to be of the utmost importance as well. Gallo noted that conversations need to be transparent and open, with a continual outlet for employees to express themselves. According to Sullivan, Google does this with weekly open forums to establish transparency and access to leadership. Windley considers such transparency to be key, and urges companies to do a better job of explaining – and living – their values and culture.

Smith’s final question asked how agility is understood and manifested in HR. Panelists commented that as people are now moved from project to project, building a network of skills and experiences, everyday work is no longer structured hierarchically. While it may be easier for smaller companies to adopt to agile HR processes and practices right now, panelists agreed that larger, more traditional companies must also embrace it as part of their change management.

The session concluded with some audience questions, including what advice to give young people leaving higher education and entering the workforce, how to cultivate greater partnerships between business and academic institutions and measuring the qualitative impacts of global assignments to both individuals and companies.  Panelists agreed that it’s now more important than ever to build learning programs that promote a blend of both hard and soft skills development. They observed that new workforce entrants would be well served to focus less on “moving up” and more on cultivating a variety of capabilities and competencies, recognizing that their career paths will likely take on more of a “zig-zagged” than a linear approach.  As for measuring assignment value, each agreed that it is crucial to look at talent on an individual level, rounding out specific skill sets for particular purposes and goals, and that overall, global experiences help drive leadership skills, greater understanding, empathy, cultural awareness and innovation.

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